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You Might See Better in Your Eye Doctor's Office

Research suggests older adults may have poorer vision at home, mostly because of lower lighting

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"Not all older adults, however, may benefit from increased lighting," Bhorade said. "Therefore, to optimize lighting conditions in the home, we recommend an individualized in-home assessment by an occupational therapist, or a referral to a low-vision rehabilitation specialist."

Dr. Alfred Sommer, a professor of ophthalmology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, said the study highlights the broader issue of understanding the real-world limitations of people with vision issues.

"This is a real issue," he said. "The ophthalmologist's office is not the world we live in. It's a very artificial situation, in which vision is tested in a very dark room but with very high contrast letters. And even that's only looking at one measure of vision, without regard to other possible [eye] issues."

"It's no surprise that when people are in their home setting, under ambient conditions, everything is a little bit grayer and not so intense," Sommer said. "The question is whether that difference has a functional impact. Can people easily navigate through their world and function in society?"

"This is a whole new science that is now coming into play -- the effort to develop ways to test for real-life conditions so we can improve vision in a way that's really meaningful to patients," Sommer said.

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